Dayhiking with Camelbak's Palisade 32 Hydration Pack

Loading the Palisade 32 for a day on the trail is a breeze. The abundance of pockets lets you keep things organized and accessible just the way you want.

One of Camelbak’s largest hydration packs to date, the Palisade 32 is one of the most innovative daypacks we’ve hiked with recently. Its unique feature is two wraparound “wings” that form the hip belt, which are intended to provide added stability while on the move. Is it just another gimmick, or does it vastly improve the daypack-wearing experience? Read on to find out.

Out of the Bag

At first glance, the Palisade 32 looks like a hybrid between a ballistic, military-style pack and a multifunctional day tripper. The curvature of the integrated hip belt wings gives the Palisade a sleek and streamlined profile, while its rigid, full-length Air Support Back Panel helps it maintain its shape and stability. And while it does have a fair number of external features, these are smartly integrated into the overall design to keep the pack looking clean, and not clunky. 

The Palisade’s main compartment is accessed via a top, U-zip lid panel. This, combined with the aforementioned back panel, makes loading and retrieving gear fairly effortless. Inside are two generously-sized pockets for keeping smaller items organized. There’s also a key clip inside. The lid panel features an additional, microfiber-lined pocket that’s nice for stashing glasses or electronics that you don’t want scratched. The 3-liter Crux Reservoir is stashed in its own zippered compartment, between the main area and the back panel. This provides very easy access for filling and loading, and doesn’t compromise the storage space of the main compartment. 

On the outside, the hip belt wings feature two open, stretchy pockets on the right side, and one large, zippered pocket on the left side. The former are good for stashing and retrieving smaller items like snacks, hand sanitizer, etc., while the latter can accommodate larger smartphones or GPS devices that you want more securely stored. Behind the right-side wing, there is also a stretchy mesh pocket (more on that below). On the back of the pack is a large, open mesh pocket, a trekking pole attachment, and a few small gear loops. A rain cover is stored in a small pocket at the bottom of the pack.

Loading Up

Loading the Palisade 32 for a day on the trail was a breeze. The abundance of pockets lets you keep things organized and accessible just the way you want. The big Crux Reservoir easily slips into its sleeve, and is held in place by hooking the handle into a sturdy loop. This smartly prevents the bladder from collapsing once its contents are sipped down. The mesh pocket on the back is good for stashing rain gear or water shoes, but not so much for smaller items, which can easily fall out of the open sides. 

The mesh side pocket can accommodate a big, 1-liter bottle, but depending on how full you load the pack, this can either compromise the main compartment’s capacity, or extend the right-side wing outward. This wing extension can make the hip belt feel uneven and off balance. Instead of carrying an extra bottle on the outside, we stashed it inside and used the side pocket for something less bulky, e.g. trekking poles or our folding sit pad. There aren’t any side compression straps, so the pack maintains its full size, regardless of how much is loaded inside.

On the Trail

Strapped on and ready to hike, a few things were noticeable right out of the gate. The Palisade’s contoured, mesh shoulder straps sit nicely, and have adjustable load-lifters for dialing in the fit, however they only have minimal padding over the tops of the shoulders. This was great for not getting all sweaty underneath, but made the pack feel a little weighty under a full, daylong load. The sternum strap can be adjusted up or down for comfortable placement, and a convenient clip holds the hydration hose in place so it doesn’t flop around. 

On the back side, the the big, stiff lumbar padding was quite noticeable at first. But once we found the sweet spot, it was out of mind, and it supported our load nicely without weighing us down. The mesh ventilated Air Support Back Panel did a decent job of keeping us from getting all sweaty back there, however—full disclosure—most of our hiking with the Palisade was during the cooler shoulder seasons. We’ll be curious to see if it’s just as effective in the warmer months—especially since the back panel is stitched closed, with no pass-through ventilation.

Admittedly, at first, we found the hip belt wing feature to be a little awkward. The Palisade’s design requires you to always buckle up the hip belt—something we don’t always do with daypacks. But once we started hiking with it, we quickly got accustomed to it and found it quite supportive, and kept the pack close-in and not bouncing around. The zippered left-wing pocket and front right-wing pocket were easily accessible, but the rear right-wing pocket required a little arm wrenching to reach with the pack on. The side pocket is also fairly accessible with a little flexibility. However, depending on how tightly you have the wings/hip belt cinched up, it can be challenging to replace an item in that pocket while wearing the pack.

When the weather went south, the Palisade demonstrated impressive water repellency in drizzle and light rain due to its heavy nylon material. When the wet started coming down in earnest, we were able to quickly deploy the integrated rain cover from its hidden pocket, and that kept our contents dry throughout the rest of our hike. And while we love packs that include a rain cover, this one is permanently attached with a short elastic cord. This made drying the cover after our hike a bit of a hassle. (When we got home, we just cut this strap off and hung the cover by itself to dry.)

The Rundown

After several outings with the Camelbak Palisade 32, we found it to be a sturdy pack with plenty of storage, accessibility and features for normal dayhikes carrying a moderate load. The lack of shoulder strap padding made it a little less comfortable on longer hikes, under heavier loads. It also takes a little getting used to the wing/hip belt system and stiff lumbar pad, but once dialed in and sitting right, it keeps the pack’s load secure and stable enough to be generally comfortable, and allow for agile movement over varied terrain and hopping over creeks.

The real highlight of the Palisade 32 is its included 100-ounce Crux Reservoir. This largely eliminates the need to carry extra containers, and was suitable for most of our dayhikes. When a refill was needed, it was easy enough to remove the reservoir, refill, and replace it without having to hassle with the rest of our gear load. The bite-valve hose also features a handy on/off lever so the hose doesn’t dribble as you hike. These factors, combined with its exceptional organizational features (and despite a few drawbacks), makes the Palisade a worthwhile day tripper. 

Camelbak Palisade 32L Hydration Pack

WEIGHT: 2.9 lb
WAIST: 30–50 in
TORSO: 18–21 in

STYLE:  Unisex
PRICE:  $175

Eli "Lounger" Boschetto

Eli "Lounger" Boschetto

Eli is the founder of PCT: Oregon, and the author of three Mountaineers Books guides: Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail: Oregon, Day Hiking: Mount Hood, and Urban Trails: Portland. He is also a brand ambassador for SPOT and National Geographic Maps, and is on the advisory council for the Oregon Trails Coalition. Eli lives in Portland, Oregon.

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These reviews are based on the field results of PCT: Oregon’s gear testing team. Reviews are subjective, and are based on a variety of factors, including, but not limited to, temperature, weather, elevation, and trail/camp conditions, as well as personal size, comfort and body function. Individual results may vary. PCT: Oregon and its gear review staff are not associated with featured gear brand(s), and are not paid for reviews. 
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